FORT WORTH, Texas - How TCU won two basketball games in the Big 12 may be the greatest achievement of any TCU team in this first season of this new conference. No athletic program at TCU was more poorly equipped for this promotion than men's basketball, and that is no slam against head coach Trent Johnson or his players.
TCU's upset win against Oklahoma on Saturday afternoon was a nice way to send off a senior class and a team that was over-matched from the start of this season.
The Frogs had two players who would have been recruited by other Big 12 teams - point guard Kyan Anderson and forward Amric Fields. The rest were recruited to be Mountain West players. And Fields was lost for the season when he blew out his ACL in the third game.
There are encouraging signs: Johnson knows what he is doing; despite every reason, his team never quit on him; he is not going to employ this "grind it out" style forever; Fields is expected back; players are coming; Anderson is one of the better point guards in the Big 12, and he has two years left.
"It's been about what I expected, with the exception of the injuries" Johnson said in a recent phone interview. "I can't talk about (this season) without talking about that. It put pressure on the seniors to be in certain rolls, and to apply pressure more than their skill level or talent."
I offered Johnson my theory on the first season of college basketball coaches - the first year is more about the third year.
Year 1 Coach plays who he has, and the transition is ugly.
Year 2 Coach plays the young people he wants and there looks to be some direction.
Year 3 Coach has his group for two years, and that's when you know if it can work.
"That's your asseessment," he said. "I hate the rebuilding tag. We're going to get it done. We just are. You've seen it in college basketball - you get the right two guys, as long as they can play."
TCU basketball is one of the hardest jobs in high major basketball. The interest level is minimal, and the tradition is non-existent. If this has any shot of working, Johnson is going to need some patience on the part of the administration.
He landed a solid recruiting class - F Brandon Parrish, C Karviar Shepherd, G Michael Williams - and expect that he is going to find a few others to come in next season. If he can find one or two decent transfers, next season should be better.
And he already beat Kansas.
Facebook Mac Engel